The following is a beautiful story told by psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach. It illustrates the ‘numbing’ that happens to protect us from trauma:
A number of years ago I was working with a client, who also had some exposure to meditation, and she shared a story that for her expressed her own experience. I want to tell you the story: It starts when she’s 7-years-old hiding in a closet, terrified after another unexpected attack from her drunken, enraged father. The little girl is praying saying, “Help, I can’t take it anymore.” And she opens her eyes to see a fairy in a haze of blue with a glittering wand. She lets the fairy know how her father has been beating her and that her mother doesn’t help, and how she believes they both really wish she was dead.
The fairy listens with tears in her eyes. She tells the little girl that while she can’t make all this pain disappear, she can help her get through this time. She can help her forget, then help her remember later when she’s able to handle it. With a wave of the wand, the good fairy says, “I’m going to send things into different parts of your body and they are going to hold them for you until you feel strong enough to let them move freely again.” And she explained she would dull her pelvis and her belly to block the sexual energy from moving, and she would constrict her heart and her throat so she wouldn’t feel the raw intensity of her fear and the need to cry out. The little girl wouldn’t have to feel the broken-heartedness.
“You’ll have trouble feeling and being close to people, but it will be your way of surviving. At those times that the pain erupts, you will find your own ways to control it. Ways that may not look good to the world, but will be of temporary comfort. And you, my darling, will be fairly functional. You will be a functional human being in spite of all this because you have a strong mind and you can hold all this in. And I will be helping you.”
The child looked directly into the fairy’s eyes and asked, “How will you help? Will you come back to see me?”
The fairy replied, “You will not forget everything. I will leave a voice inside that will urge you to reconnect with your whole self. It may be a very long process, but in time, you will feel an urgent calling to step out of imprisoning beliefs, to unwind your body and release what is has been holding all these years. You will learn the art of sacred presence. There will be physical and emotional pain as you open, but you will have what you need: the compassion and wisdom, the support of loving others to be a whole person, spiritually awake, but still the same. It’s because your soul has always been there, just hidden by scars of this lifetime.”
The story ends as the fairy gently puts her arms around the little girl’s shoulders and leads her to bed. As the little girl finally relaxed into deep sleep, the fairy gazed tenderly at the small, innocent face and then whispered her goodbye.
“When you wake up, you will forget I was here. You will forget you asked for help. You will forget the sharpness of your daily pain. This is the only way I know to get you through this. You are a beautiful child, and I love you. In fact, your parents love you, although they are incapable of showing it to you. You will have to love yourself enough to heal so that when you are older, your life will be powerful, full, and free. One day you will know who you really are. You will trust your goodness and know your belonging. Until then, and for always, I love you.”